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Birding Photo Quiz: August 2017

The “Featured Photo” in the August 2017 Birding is timely! How so? Well, we’ll give you a huge hint: Earlier this summer, the bird formerly known as the Northern Harrier, Circus cyaneus, was split by the American Ornithological Society into two species. One retains the vernacular name Northern Harrier but now goes by the scientific name C. hudsonius. The other gets the vernacular name Hen Harrier but preserves the scientific name C. cyaneus. Got it? 🙂

Another hint: This bird was photographed over open water off one of the remote outer Florida keys near Great White Heron National Wildlife Refuge, Monroe County. The date was April 13, so we’re talking raptor migration. And consider the possibility of vagrancy. Just sayin’ . . .

With those hints (or hindrances?), let’s talk about our Featured Photo. The full analysis and additional photos, by birder Sam Wilson, appear in the August 2017 issue of Birding magazine, arriving in ABA members’ mailboxes right now. But let’s first see what we can do with this bird, together, online. Without further ado:

Near Great White Heron National Wildlife Refuge, Monroe County, Florida; April 13, 2017. Photo by © Sam Wilson.


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Ted Floyd

Ted Floyd

Editor, Birding magazine at American Birding Association
Ted Floyd is the Editor of Birding magazine, and he is broadly involved in other programs and initiatives of the ABA. He is the author of more than 100 magazine and journal articles, and has written four recent books, including an ABA title, the ABA Guide to Birds of Colorado. Floyd is a frequent speaker at birding festivals and state ornithological society meetings, and he has served on the boards of several nonprofit organizations. Mainly, he listens to birds at night.
Ted Floyd

Latest posts by Ted Floyd (see all)

  • Noah Arthur

    It’s awful pale. I’d lean towards Hen Harrier, but based on nothing more substantial than “It doesn’t look like the Northern Harriers I’ve seen.”

  • Oliver Burrus

    I would say Northern Harrier, just a very pale one or maybe even a leucistic. I think if it was a Hen Harrier it would have gotten some kind of attention as the split of Hen and Northern Harrier was proposed to the AOS a while before the photo was taken. Lastly, it would be way more likely to be a Northern as only one Hen Harrier has ever been found in the ABA area, and it was not alive plus only one wing was salvaged.

    Oliver Burrus – founder of Whimbrel Birders Club

  • Rick Wright

    I don’t think a bird that looks like this is identifiable — at least as I understand it, the extent of black in the primaries and secondaries and the amount of spotting below is just about the only way to distinguish males, and this bird is pretty clearly pigment-disadvantaged. Eager to learn more!

    • Ted Floyd

      Rick’s onto something… 😉

      In his analysis of the Featured Photo, Sam Wilson addresses Rick’s concern. Turns out, certain feathers on this bird seal the deal on the ID. Sam is confident of his photo-based ID, but he clearly makes the point that the ID would have been impossible in the field. Pete Dunne and others don’t like that.

  • Mark Brown

    Short-tailed Hawk?

  • Patch Davis

    In a park named for differently-morphed individuals (did I do that politically-correctly enough?), interesting choice. Mark, I have no experience with short-tailed; Oliver, I have to agree this bird, if indeed a Harrier, is indeed pigment-disadvantaged, as you say.

  • Pingback: Birding Online: August 2017 « ABA Publications()

  • Ted Floyd

    Here is a link to Sam Wilson’s analysis of the Featured Photo:

    • Ted Floyd

      I forgot to mention: ABA member account required for full access to the article.

      Helpful hint. Join the ABA.

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